Friday 10 July 2015

Obedience in the desert

We've just heard an article from our Constitutions on obedience. My mind wandered somehow to Jesus wandering in the desert of Judaea all those many years ago, after his baptism, immersing himself in the will of his Father. A desert 2000 years ago, probably very different: much more water in the wadis, in Wadi Qelt, in Wadi Kidron; more vegetation, probably, more animaletti too. But no way of "getting back to Jerusalem" by the next bus. You are there, in the desert, in the tremendous desert, alone, ALONE. Wondering what you are doing there, perhaps. Not clear yet the consciousness - or maybe the consciousness is always there, the divine consciousness, but the clarity about identity has not yet reached judgment, has not yet become knowledge. Just there. But, I would think, with a tremendous sense of trust and peace, while also searching how to be Son. How to be Messiah. 

The disadvantage of experience

Just opened Michael Paul Gallagher's book, Mappe della Fede, on 10 contemporary theologians. As I expected, there is an English original, which unfortunately I don't have. In the end, a translation is a translation, and not always felicitous. But a few things that G was saying in the Introduction struck me anyway. That he came to the Greg as a theology teacher with a long background of literature in public universities; he found this at first as a disadvantage, because he knew much less theology, or he was far less familiar with the theological literature, than his colleagues. But soon he learnt that it could work to his advantage: his familiarity with literature and with generations of young people gave him a completely different approach to theology, one that made more use of the imagination.

G gave a talk, a very brilliant one, at the International Lonergan Conference organized by Whelan and co. at the Greg a couple of years ago. He is probably well worth reading.

and then his words echo for me: I find myself not familiar with the Salesian and formation literature, but long years of contact and listening to young salesians - could that not be a precious reserve of experience from which to learn? - To find a way of learning.


Thursday 9 July 2015

The Synod on the Family: the Instrumentum Laboris

The General Council just heard Archbishop Bruno Forte, of Chieti-Vasto, on the Instrumentum Laboris for the second part of the Synod on the Family (2015). Forte is one of the leading Italian theologians, having studied under Hans Kung, Ratzinger and Kasper at Tubingen, besides obtaining a philosophy degree from Paris.

In his informal sharing this evening, he made observations first of all about the new methodology of the Synod. Pope Francis says that the synods of the future will probably be all like this, in two parts, because this provides time for reflection, consultation, and wide sharing. He has wanted the synod to adopt the See - Judge - Act methodology, and gave full freedom to all members to express themselves, without fear of being told that "the pope might not like it" - and some probably took this very seriously, even to the point of telling the boss where to get off.

The point to the synod on the family is to be faithful not only to doctrine and to law, but also to the law of mercy and compassion which is the central point of the incarnation. (If in the past the great challenges were on the level of doctrine - how to reconcile the oneness of God with his threeness, the one person of Jesus with his two natures - this time the challenge is how to reconcile doctrine / law and mercy.) A great principle is that of graduality: something that is applicable not only to childhood, but to human beings all through their lives. Another great principle is the respect for the diversity of contexts (what Lonergan would call the shift from a classicist to an empirical notion of culture).

The church is made in the image of the Trinity: it has to learn how to be one and yet many: a symphony of differences.

Forte ended by asking us to pray for the pope and the church, and to support the synod by encouraging discussion and championing the cause of mercy. No wonder the pope has thought of calling for a Year of Misericordia.

Wednesday 8 July 2015

Ecology and Salesian formation: A push from Rabbi Yonatan Neril


Rabbi Yonatan Neril dropped in to see me the other day (6 July 2015) here at the Pisana, to urge all Salesian formation programs to implement the concern for “our common home” expressed in Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’. He has also been in touch with Joshtrom Kureethadam (Faculty of Philosophy, UPS), who has recently published Creation in Crisis: Science, Ethics, Theology

Rabbi Neril is Founder Director of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, Jerusalem. Two years ago, he addressed the faculty and students of Studium Theologicum Salesianum, Jerusalem. Last year, some of the faculty and students joined one of the interfaith ecology initiatives conducted by the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development.

Yonatan was much younger than I expected: just 34. His passion and courage is admirable. I asked him whether it was easy for him to go around Rome meeting Catholics of different kinds. He said it was not, but that people had been very kind. He has been to the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Congregation for the Clergy, and so on. Obviously he has also paid a visit to the Rome Synagogue, which he said is one of the most beautiful in the world. When I said I would love to visit, he said that security was very tight these days. 

The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development (ICSD, www.interfaithsustain.com) works to catalyze a transition to a sustainable human society through the active leadership of faith communities. It promotes seminaries and theological schools educating on faith and ecology. By focusing on the formation of teaching values and methods for emerging clergy and faith leaders, ICSD seeks to create a multiplier effect. ICSD organizes workshops for seminary directors, faculty, and students, and issued the first-ever report on Faith and Ecology Courses in North American Seminaries.  


Rabbi Neril is a native of California, who received rabbinical ordination in Israel. He lives with his wife and two little kids in Jerusalem, not far from our Salesian Monastery Ratisbonne: he mentioned the neighbourhood, but it is not familiar to me - between us and the Mahane Yehuda, he said. And I have an invitation to a Shabbath meal!

Yonatan will contribute an article on ecology to Divyadaan. He said somewhat apologetically that he would write it from a Jewish perspective, and I said that would be not only wonderful, but the very thing to do. 

Monday 6 July 2015

Don Bosco's panegyric in honour of St Philip Neri

Aldo Giraudo, ed. "Il panegirico di don Bosco in onore di san Filippo Neri (1868)." Edizione critica.
Richerche Storiche Salesiane 64, Anno 34, n. 1 (gennaio-giugno 2015) 63-107.

Sunday 5 July 2015

Passion and a new language

It is possible to work, and even work brilliantly, for the benefit of and with youth at risk. My question is: is it important to work with a certain clarity of identity, of the Salesian and religious identity? After all, our mission is not "working for youth" but "being signs and bearers of God's love". It is epiphany, revelation, of the Fatherhood of God, of the misericordia / mercy / compassion of God.

So the question for many of us Salesians, and for many of our provinces is: how clear is our identity, our salesian consecrated identity? How passionate are we as Salesian consecrated persons? How much does it matter for us? Or, better still, how passionate about Jesus are we? How clear?

We need to develop a new language to speak with our young people - or at least with large swathes of them, since there is now a growing group that would like to go back to the old language. That new language can be developed only out of a lived passion for the Lord. When the Lord becomes "knit" to our soul, like in the case of Jonathan and David, then the new language will arise... With some effort and some creativity, following the lead of people like Benedict XVI and Francis and Francesco Rossi de Gasperis. 

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